Feature

May 2006

Dundee: City of Discovery

Dundee has pioneered radar, keyhole surgery and the adhesive postage stamp to name but a few. The Dundee publisher DC Thomson has been a pioneer in the world of cartoons, bringing us such long running heroes as Dennis the Menace, the Bash Street Kids and Desperate Dan. And today the city boasts a burgeoning digital media sector from which it leads the world in the design of computer games like Tomb Raider, Lemmings and State of Emergency. With the help of revolutionary digital imaging, the University of Dundee's medical research is now world famous. This, along with being home to one of the UKs leading colleges for art and design and you can see why visual storytelling is a very Dundonian theme. Visual storytelling crosses language barriers and reaches out to the world.

International connections

Dundee was once the capital of the lucrative jute trade upon which vital links were made with India. It was also a major whaling port with its focus far from home, on the great northern seas. These industries have come and gone but they've imbued the city with a rich history and perspective on the world at large. Today its a cultural hive, headed by DCA (Dundee Contemporary Arts) and Dundee Rep but the global focus remains. Under the auspices of the British Council, Dundee Rep toured its Winters Tale to Iran in 2003 and Dundee-based Scottish Dance Theatre toured to Italy and Greece in 2003/04. And when in 2002 the British Council in India opened their pilot Knowledge and Learning Centre in Delhi one of the three UK degree programmes it ran was the pioneering MSc in Computer Games Technology from Dundee's University of Abertay, re-forging old links in a thoroughly contemporary way.

Having been synonymous with jute, Dundee then became synonymous with the unique publishing company DC Thomson who have in their time produced some of the most famous cartoon magazines in the world. But interestingly the icons that DC Thomson have created like the cowhand Desperate Dan with his penchant for cow pie are not in any way parochial. Maybe its this peculiarly cross-borders mindset that attracted US giant NCR to make Dundee a major manufacturing base in the 1960s. NCR Corporation is a $7 billion global market leader in automated transaction machines active in 130 countries. In 2001 they furthered their commitment to Scotland with a new R&D facility in Dundee called the NCR Discovery Centre.

Academic achievements

William McGonagall

The above doggerel is from the extensive repertoire of Dundonian William McGonagall, probably the worlds worst published poet. In fact hes celebrated for being such a terrible poet. Dundee, it should be becoming obvious, has a playfulness and a sense of humour. The University (mentioned above by McGonagall) on the other hand, although not pretentious is decidedly serious and a world leader in the fields of medicine and biotechnology and the fight against cancer. One of Dundee's greatest academic names was Englishman Sir David Lane. Lane is co-discoverer of the tumour suppressor p53 and one of the world's ten most cited scientists. He describes himself as the guardian of the genome. Along with Professor Sir Philip Cohen (the world's most quoted biochemist), Professor Roland Wolf and Sir Alfred Cuschieri (whose portrait is in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery), he was a leading light in Dundee's internationally significant medical research boom and also a significant entrepreneur - in 1996 he founded Cyclacel, raising £34 million in the process. Today, Dundee has one of the largest research communities in Europe with more than 2500 people working in the life sciences sector alone.

Computer games

And back to computer games: this too is taken seriously in Dundee. Abertay was the first university in the world to run taught courses in games programming and games creativity and artwork. The course is like a magnet to Dundee but also offers students the opportunity to study in Japan and America. To complement the curriculum, Abertay has established IC CAVE (International Centre for Computing and Virtual Entertainment), Europe's first university research centre dedicated to computer games and video entertainment. Russel Kay, the sole PC programmer for the Lemmings game, is now the Professor of Games Technology at Abertay.

One of the city's most high profile computer games whiz kids is Christiaan van der Kuyl, grandson of a Dutchman who came to Dundee during the war to work on submarines. His other grandfather is Polish a typical international Dundonian pedigree. Van der Kuyl is a graduate in computer sciences from the University of Dundee and is the force behind State of Emergency and Tomb Raider.

More than 1500 people are employed in the creative industries. The sector boasts 200 companies with a combined annual turnover of more than £100 million. A £20 million digital media park that is expected to sustain 1000 jobs has been built in the city. Dundee has a vibrant story to tell but Dundee's preferred way of telling their story is in pictures. So, whatever language you speak, come to Dundee and see with your own eyes what all the fuss is all about.

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Dundee Contemporary Arts

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University of Abertay